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Audi A3 Cabriolet (2014 - 2016)

TOPLESS & THREE (some text hidden)

By Jonathan Crouch

Introductionword count: 96

Can a relatively affordable compact convertible be genuinely, heart-stoppingly, aspirationally desirable? Audi thinks so and, in the form of their second generation A3 Cabriolet, brought us an open-topped car that was an enormous improvement on its predecessor. All the Audi attributes you're used to - cool design, fantastic build quality, engine efficiency and strong residual values - were here matched to sleek looks delivering that 'want one' factor. You can't really ask for much more from a compact convertible. Let's check out this one as a used buy in its original 2014 to 2016-era production form.

Modelsword count: 25

2dr Convertible (1.4 TFSI, 1.8 TFSI, 2.0TFSI petrol / 1.6 TDI 105 & 110PS, 2.0 TDI 150 & 184PS [Standard, SE, Sport, S line, S3])

Historyword count: 348

We've always found it puzzling that car manufacturers frequently pursue an idea obviously flawed from the outset. Perhaps they get a bit mired in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture. Sports cars that don't handle? That worked really well for TVR didn't it? Economy-minded electric cars that cost three times as much as a diesel model? You know who we're talking about. Or how about convertible cars that.. just don't look very elegant? That last trap is one Audi blundered into with its original A3 Cabriolet but one that was firmly rectified by this, its second generation replacement. To be fair, there wasn't much else wrong with that original drop-top A3, a car we first saw in 2007. It was well built, had a range of great engines to choose from and made all sorts of sense on the balance sheet thanks to decent efficiency and strong resale values. The problem lay in its underpinnings, which had to be based on those of the A3 Hatch, hence the short, stubby shape and pram-like look when the roof was down. BMW knew not to do this, basing the Audi's closest rival, their 1 Series Convertible, on a coupe platform for a sleeker, more elegant look. So the Ingolstadt engineers went back to the drawing board, resulting in this second generation version, a car we first saw in the Spring of 2014 and a design clearly based on a very different approach. For a start, this MK2 model was spun off the chassis of the A3 Saloon rather than the hatchback, which meant that it could be both lower and longer than the model it replaced. Perhaps indeed, the car to suit owners of the long lamented A4 Cabriolet unable to stretch to its A5 replacement. And certainly an Audi guaranteed to tempt buyers in search of something just a touch nicer than mainstream family hatch-based compact convertibles can offer. The original version of this MK2 A3 Cabriolet model was produced until 2016, when it was then lightly facelifted and some fresh engine and technology options added.

What You Getword count: 1016

If you were familiar with the first generation A3 Cabriolet, you'll find this MK2 model a far more elegant thing. The original was based on the A3 hatchback bodyshell which, perhaps inevitably, led to somewhat dumpy, pram-like styling. This car, in contrast, is built on a modified version of the longer chassis used by the A3 Saloon and, as a result, is 183mm longer, 28mm wider and 15mm lower than its predecessor. You'll find it classier too. Take the lovely satin metallic finish of the windscreen header rail, part of a whole range of beautiful detailing that carries on around the waistline to the neat rear tonneau cover. It's all made quite a difference, giving the impression of a far more desirable, far more substantial car: and one that you'd be far happier to move into if you were downsizing from a larger Convertible. As well as the dimensional changes, Audi's designers employed virtually every trick in the book to accentuate the longer, wider, lower look, with more shape in the doors and a strong so-called 'Tornado' swage line that runs from the tail light cluster all the way forward to the wedgey front headlights that flank the usual classy single-frame radiator grille. The previously flat waistline is with this MK2 model canted up at the rear too, offering a squat, power-packed impression. As a result of all this, buyers ended up with a much more dynamic-looking car, even without the sports suspension that can drop it up to 25mm lower to the ground. More important though, is what you can't see, the hi-tech MQB modular transverse platform that underpins the ultra-lightweight construction primarily responsible for the kind of weight saving that sees this car up to 60kgs lighter than its predecessor. But of course, almost any Cabriolet looks good roof down. How will it be top-up? Like every convertible Audi, this one's hood is made of cloth and in this case opens or closes in 18 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. It's quite sleek for a compact convertible, with a nice touch being the way that the rear section has been sculpted to mirror the shape of the saloon. Of course, it's quite tempting to dismissed cloth-topped cabrios as being technically inferior to folding metal-roofed models but there's plenty of high tech on offer here, with magnesium used in the large roof peak, while the parts that give the roof its shape are fashioned from aluminium. The hood itself has three-layers and a headliner - and on plusher models is supplied in 'acoustic' form, with a layer of foam inserted that's supposed to reduce cabin noise levels by around 30%. The idea of that is to offer all the refinement a folding metal roof would provide without the boot space compromises that approach entails. Has Audi managed that? Yes. The boot certainly isn't massive and bulkier baby buggies will be tough to fit in the rather odd-shaped space when the roof's down - you've just 275-litres to play with. But the 320-litres you get with the hood is up is substantial in comparison to what you'd get from a folding metal-topped model. Like BMW's 4 Series Convertible for example, which is supposed to be a much larger car yet which offers you 100-litres less. More directly competitive fabric-topped cabriolets can't match the carriage capacity of this one either: a Golf Cabriolet offers 70-litres less, a Vauxhall Cascada 50-litres less. As with these cars, there's the option to extend the luggage space on offer by pushing forward the 50:50 split-folding rear bench, a process that in this case frees up 678-litres of total fresh air. Of course, whenever you find a compact cabriolet with a reasonably sized boot, there's always the fear that rear seat passengers will be compromised as a result. Is that the case here? Yes and no. It certainly isn't what you'd call spacious in the back - but then no car in this class is. What's undeniable though, is that basing this second generation design on a longer wheelbase has freed up a little more space for knees, shoulders and legs and it also helps that the two main seating positions are sculpted into a comfy shape. True, this is still an environment best suited to kids and shopping bags and we certainly wouldn't want to be trying to lug a heavy child seat in and out when the roof was up. But that said, we're now no longer talking about rear seat berths you'd be embarrassed to point adults towards for short journeys. Time though, to get to the part of this car Audi does really well: the front of the cabin. Quite simply, nothing else in this segment can match it, the cabin, as in all A3s, dominated by an electrically-extending 5.8-inch colour screen centrally positioned on top of the dash. Via this, you can marshal the many functions of a redesigned MMI infotainment system that prevents all but the most vital controls from cluttering up the minimalist dashboard. Just as distinctive are the four air vents, styled to look like miniature jet engines and made up of no fewer than thirty individual parts including bright metal outer rings that are shaped for perfect grip. Otherwise, you've an interior that'll be familiar fare to anybody who speaks fluent Audi design language, everything clear, classy and easily accessible. Only the thick windscreen pillars represent any sort of departure from the usual A3 feel, beefed up to withstand a rollover impact. This apart, it's just as you'd find in an A3 Hatch or Saloon. So the instrument panel's styled in a wing-like profile and an electric parking brake switch replaces the traditional - and preferable - handbrake lever so as to free up space for an MMI infotainment system controller by your left hand that can now be ordered with a touchpad on top. Ultimately, what it all adds up to is a cabin that wouldn't be out of place on a car costing twice the price. And how many models of this kind can you say that about? Exactly.

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Category: Convertibles

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This is an excerpt from our full review.
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